I’m in a castle in Austria working on my YA vampire novel… I’m about halfway done and hope to finish this year and get it published. So in the meantime, here’s an epic vampire giveaway of some of my favorite vampire-themed books.
Twenty vampire novels, AND an amazing vampire-hunting kit.
Click here to enter!
You can find many of the individual books on this post:
The best YA vampire books of all time (plus seven you’ve probably never heard of)
I had one surprise twist saved for the end of book 2, but after much deliberation, I’ve decided it belongs at the front of book 3 instead. I’m adding it here, so you can read it now – the rest of the story continues in book 3 of the series… The Emerald Tablet.
I could feel the broken bones in my arm scrape together under my skin, like wooden blocks covered in sandpaper. Puriel lifted me up from the pile of rubble that used to be my childhood home and carried me to the black sports car. It was so quiet, I thought my ears must have been damaged, but then I could hear Puriel’s voice. He was asking me something, something about how to drive the car. I shrugged and rolled my head. I’d been in JDRI since I was nine, and driving lessons were never on the curriculum. I looked around for Sitri, why wasn’t he driving? Then I saw him, or at least the dark furry shape he’d become. The impossibly large, wolf-like creature. He was waiting for us in the middle of the road. Howling at us. Puriel finally figured out the mechanics and the car screeched out of the suburban coldesac. I could hear sirens getting louder, and we passed several police cars and an ambulance. I blinked against the harsh flashing lights. Puriel kept checking the skies. I looked up as well, expecting a helicopter, but instead I saw a flash of wings and a glimmer of silver shapes, illuminated by the early light. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so I only saw silhouettes against the dark sky, but I knew what they were. Hunters. Dozens of them.
“Why aren’t they attacking us?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Puriel said. “But Zeus isn’t going to want us to reach Nevah. Not with the shears.
The Golden Shears.
I looked down, and sure enough, my pale fingers were still clenched around the golden metal, almost like they’d melded with my fist. My arm looked like a spiked hammer. The shears radiated power, and I could feel a pulsing. A throbbing through my whole body. I didn’t know if it was my own heartbeat, or the shears.
My hands felt sticky, and I realized they were covered with bright blue goo, that shimmered when I moved them. Pure divinity. Zeus’s blood. I shuddered, resisting the urge to wipe it against my clothes.
“Do we have a towel or something?” I asked.
Puriel looked physically pained, and his eyes were coal black, with unusually wide pupils. He stared at my hands with more than just concern. It was hunger. This much energy, right here, it was taking all his strength to restrain himself.
“You… want this?” I asked.
Hunger took over his face, and for a moment I worried he was going to lose control and bite my hand off. Instead he reached for my hand and held it up to his mouth. He gently kissed my fingertips, and I felt his tongue flick over my skin. It should have been erotic, but it wasn’t. I knew this disgusted him as much as it disgusted me. But after what we’d been through, he needed strength. It must have taken a tremendous amount of willpower to resist Zeus, and Puriel had refused him. He’d given me the shears, and I’d stabbed Zeus in the thigh. Nobody could question his loyalty now. He’d had his shot at redemption, and he’d chosen us.
Tall fir trees tore past us. I looked behind us and saw Sitri keeping up, running impossibly fast. We were going nearly over 100 miles per hour. Puriel was hugging the curves tightly, his white knuckles gripping the wheel with singular focus. I couldn’t believe he’d never driven before.
The Olympic forest expanded before us, inviting us in—a hundred miles of virgin territory, as far as anyone else knew anyway. But up ahead, I could see the a small road that cut through the forest to Nevah; Able’s private sanctuary for heirs, roots and magical creatures.
But something looked different this time. Something was blocking the road, some kind of wall. Puriel slammed on the brakes when we got close enough to see clearly. The wall was actually a tight lattice of hunters, their golden armor glistening, swords glowing with divine power. There were at least thirty, and streaks of light overhead told me more were arriving every second. They spread their wings in uniform, and it was like drawing the drapes closed. Puriel slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a stop. I heard a growl as Sitri launched himself into the wall of hunters, barreling through the middle. He tossed one hunter up in the air with a flick of his jaw, and pinned another to the ground, tearing at its neck with bloody jowls.
“Stay here!” Puriel shouted. He tore the door off and held it with one hand like a shield, then he grabbed his sword and darted towards the fray. His sword didn’t glow like the hunters, who were connected with Zeus’s energy, but after feeding straight from the source, he was much stronger. He cleaved hunters in half with raw strength, slicing through their metal armor. He cut through them like a lawnmower, tossing up bits and pieces.
Someone’s head bounced off the windshield. I hit the wipers, and watched them spread the glowing, silver blood across the glass. A tiny stream of soap shot out, and the wipers worked furiously until I could see again.
I gripped the door weakly and tried to push it open with my shoulder, but pain radiated down my arm. Hunters materialized by the door. One of them ripped the side door off and tossed it aside. He grabbed me by my clothes and threw me to the ground outside. I didn’t think they’d kill me. I was far too valuable, and too dangerous. Unless, now that I had the shears, Zeus didn’t want to take the risk.
The shears. I rolled to my knees and held them up, feeling their power. Zeus was afraid of me. I’d hurt him. The look of surprise on his face filled me with courage. I took a deep breath, and focused on the slender threads of the hunter’s lifespans. They shone like siler glowsticks in the early light. But when I tried to reach for them, a numbing, icy pain shot through my elbow. With my arm broken, I couldn’t lift my hand high enough, which meant I couldn’t grip the threads and also cut them with the shears, not with one hand anyway. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t do any damage. I tucked the shears into my pocket, then lashed out and flicked the thread with my bare fingertips, and watched the nearest hunter crumple and writhe on the ground. The other two froze and exchanged a look. I got to my feet and dusted off my jeans, then looked up at them with a smirk. I curled my fingers like talons, just before one of them swung a fist at me. I ducked and hooked his thread, winding it around my finger before pulling sharply. He dropped like a stone. Two others grabbed my arms and held them in a vice-like grip. A third grabbed the shears, attempting to rip them out of my pocket. An arrow appeared in his neck, and he slumped to the side. I looked up to see Mist flying towards us, loosing arrows nimbly. Dion and Tori were right behind her. Dion charged through the hunters like a bull, skewering them with his double scimitars.
The hunters kept coming, like flies to meat, swarming around us. But then the sky darkened. Able and Stephanie, holding hands, descended in dark splendor, with some kind of dark lattice of energy between them. They sucked out the light, causing temporary blindness, except for the small portal under their arms.
We passed through, with Stephanie chanting, and the gateway closed behind us. The sealed passage swallowed up the sounds of battle. We’d made it back to Nevah safely. My knees buckled and my face hit the dirt, for the third time this morning.
I’m going to be adding a final bonus chapter here soon – sorry it isn’t ready yet! If you want to sign up to my list, I’ll let you know when you can get it!
Don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway too!
Thanks for your patience! If you have a minute, please post a review on the book on Amazon.
Just finishing my PhD and finally, finally moving on with my life… this year I managed to put out some fiction, which was a huge goal of mine, but now I’ll have the time to finish what I’ve started and start writing full-time. I have dozens and dozens of novels sketched out; first up will be finishing Shearwater this fall. I wasn’t really planning on doing live events until I had 10 finished books out, but since we’ll be flying into London and I wanted to go to the London Film and Comic Con July 29-31st, I just decided to book my own table.
I won’t be bringing books with me, but I will have some “I’m really a mermaid” stickers and some cool stuff. If you’re in London, come visit!
The Europe trip has three main goals: my book Orpheum is set in Sofia, Bulgaria but I haven’t actually been there yet… so we’ll stay there for about a month soaking up culture and visiting the ancient Thracian temples. I also REALLY want to stay at this amazing mountainous apartment and do some writing.
After that we’ll head to Ireland to check out the places mentioned in Shearwater around Portballintrae, like Dunlace castle and Giant’s Causeway. I think I’m going to giveaway a free trip to join me, as part of my launch for Shearwater part 2, but I’ll announce that later.
We’ll end up in Dublin for the Claddagh Author Event … there are a few authors I’d like to meet.
Finally, in November we’re meeting 10 bestselling authors and some of the top YA booktubers to spend a month in a castle and it’s going to be epic. We’ll be posting lots of fun stuff on social media, and do some contests and things. This is the place we rented (in France).
I plan to do at least one major “writing retreat in a castle” per year from now on.
Mostly however, I need to focus on finishing more complete books and then building them up into series… I’m shooting for 100 books in the next 5 years.
I’ve made it no secret that I’m writing YA literature based on a template. Yes, a lot of YA is formulaic. Yes, there are some tropes that get annoying when they’re repeated. And you don’t want to annoy readers.
However, I maintain that writers shouldn’t just try to avoid all cliches. Writing popular fiction, like crafting any powerful story, is based on fundamentals of story construction that go back thousands of years.
Books need conflict. And a lot of bestselling young adult fiction really aren’t that innovative. They’re the same old stories, but retold in a fresh way. I want to give young adult readers what they’ve come to expect of the genre, while delighting or surprising them by remixing common themes in a way they haven’t seen before.
So it’s a little annoying to have all my future works criticized (as I know they will be) for merely having a “love triangle.” It’s as if a love triangle is a superficial thing, incidental to the story, that can easily be removed.
Most of the time, it isn’t. Because stories are built on character, not just plot events. In just about every cop show, ever, there’s a girl and a guy in a platonic working relationship. That’s so each of them can have multiple other partners, which opens up more plot events. In young adult fiction, the number is usually three. In my estimation, it’s because you need a representative of two warring races/classes, and a hero who is the medium between them. It allows for maximal conflict.
Sometimes the heroine is a girl. In The 100, (if you’ve been watching season three) Clark is sort of split between Bellamy, who represents the SkyCrew, and Lexa, who represents the grounders. She needs to make peace between them.
In the Shannara Chronicles, Amberle is a princess elf, the last of her kind. Wil is a halfblood. He alone has the power to use a magic weapon. Eretria is a human orphan with a mysterious background. She has visions and “her blood is the key.”
In Shades of Blue, Jennifer xxx plays a dirty cop, pinned between an FBI agent who is trying to bring down her ring leader, and Wozniac. Neither, incidentally, is her love interest – she’s actually banging the lawyer who can keep her violent ex locked up for good. So sex isn’t necessarily part of the “love triangle” at all – although there’s something creepy and sexual brewing between her and the FBI agent, Wozniac is more like a father figure to her.
Yes there is some romance and dramatic tension happening between all the characters, which keeps things interesting, but they’re really not that important compared to the racial warfare happening around them.
So I find it a little flippant to discount any book since Twilight with the complaint that it has a “love triangle” anytime there are three main characters representing necessarily diverse points of view. The conflict shouldn’t just stem from petty jealousy, but the fear, distrust, hatred and desire should be structured around the more important stuff that has calamitous consequences for everyone else.
Twilight is an excellent book, because it did the love triangle well. Which is exactly why I think the phrase “love triangle” needs to be assigned a new definition. As is, it has come to represent amazing, well told stories that should not be discounted out of hand – where the alleged love triangle is really a necessary and interesting center of conflict between three major players.
This is simply good construction.
Love Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Peace, War, or aligning with either team.
It’s not fair to say, “Oh look, there are three characters, that must be heading towards a love triangle because they’re there” and then discrediting the book for that reason. If a book has a romantic interest flippantly, for no reason at all, which isn’t connected to the larger circumstances, then yes, that should be criticized. But that’s bad writing. It has nothing to do with the love triangle.
And I hate comments like “the love triangle was well done” or “poorly done”. Not everything is a fucking love triangle. If a girl has a love interest and another friend who likes her, but she doesn’t like him back in that way, is it still a love triangle? If she finds out one is her brother? If he’s actually an assassin sent to kill her or a prince in disguise? The story matters, not how many main characters there or how they feel about each other or whether they’re male or female and might develop feelings for each other.
Readers, stop hunting for love triangles and enjoy the story. If it’s poorly told, say so. Don’t discount it out of hand because some other critic says there’s a love triangle in there.
Authors, don’t avoid love triangles just because you think readers are sick of them; and don’t write them just because you think readers want them. Write what’s necessary to tell a great story, fill it with as much conflict as possible, and do things that readers have never seen before.
I’m writing a YA mermaid romance. I’ve been reading up on the competition, and I’ve learned that most YA mermaid romances are pretty light.
They may be a little bit dark – there’s some death and violence – but mostly the protagonist is fighting against a few powerful antagonists. And maybe a slight bit of depressing real world stuff like a sick family member.
Now that my plotting is basically done, I’ve been going through and making my characters more likeable, by making them more real; giving them personality traits and habits, fears and hobbies, passions and beliefs. But I’ve also made them more human: more scared, weak and frail. At the same time, I’ve been adding in some tension and drama.
The first quarter of my book was setting up the conflict and drama. There’s a lot of mystery and intrigue, but not that much conflict, other than trifling high school shit. (How can a high school boy with a bat compare to an army of mermaid soldiers?)
So I went back and added some dead bodies.
On my first day of school, the dead girls started arriving. They were found left on the beach, arms neatly folded, like presents Mischief would sometimes leave outside our door: the odd bird or rat. The drowned. No papers or identification. Beautiful young women.
Which made my main protagonist, Clara, go really dark and emo today. How can she enjoy something like her birthday party when there are mysterious dead girls around?
The dead girls came to my birthday party. I didn’t want them to, but I couldn’t get them out of my mind. The pasta was delicious but sometimes, mid-chew, it would taste suddenly like ash and dirt. To cope, I drank. I thought leaving America behind, I’d somehow closed the door on loss and death, and gone through a reality portal; I’d thought somehow Ireland would be green hills and flowers and a fresh start, a chance to start over. But death had followed me.
But how else is she going to process all this death: her own parents just died in a car accident, leaving her orphaned, and she had to go live in Ireland with her grandfather. She’s raging with emotional trauma, and she was sensitive and anxious to begin with. Her therapy is pounding out her thoughts on the typewriter her father bought for her: it helps her process her emotions. She types with no paper, feeding her thoughts to the wind:
I spent months typing things out, eating up stacks of pristine white paper, starting dozens of stories, but by the time I was eleven I’d gotten into singing instead. For years it was just an expensive paperweight and decoration. Then it became a representation of my failure as a daughter: I’d promised him I’d use it, and I imagined the silence emitting from my room was heavy and meaningful. Maybe that’s when I’d developed the habit of writing nothing at all, just spending a little time each day hitting the keys. I stopped using the paper and just used it to clear my mind by typing out my thoughts.
It became a therapy of sorts. I’d purge all my musings, ideas, fears and regrets into the typewriter, and it would punctuate my confessions with the sharp clicking of the metal keys, it gave a very satisfying click, and I adored the subtle give of the keys against the persistent force of my downward stroke. I guess it would be similar to what some people call morning pages, or screaming into a soundproof room. It was a way to purge myself, so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. And I was hopelessly addicted: I’d formed the embarrassing habit of “thinking out loud”—my fingers twitch when I’m processing. The tension will build up until I can release it by working through my thoughts and emotions on the typewriter.
I feel like my world and characters are becoming more real, more unique, more memorable, but the whole thing is starting to feel so hopeless and tragic. They are up against crazy odds, 3 different ancient organizations want to kill them, and even though her feelings for Sebastian (main love interest) are overwhelming at times, she’s smart enough to know running away with him while the world burns isn’t really an option.
It’s starting to feel like a really depressing read, which isn’t something I’m necessarily opposed to (after all, it’s a series: the first book is really just about her learning to trust herself, and having the courage to fight back for what she cares about). I want it to be tragic. I want it to be heartbreaking, in a way that extremely few pieces of literature are these days, and especially not YA literature (except the really, really good stuff).
I guess my main worry was that, if it gets too dark and depressing, if it doesn’t have a little bit of high school fun, humor and games, then teen readers won’t like it… but maybe I shouldn’t worry about that. After all, I don’t want to be another mediocre teen read, something light to pass the time. I want something that is going to strike a chord, something solid enough for adults to enjoy reading without feeling like it’s a guilty pleasure. I want it to be good. I want to take the most superficial, light, silly genre I can think of (mermaid romance) and claim it, redefine it, and tell a tragic mermaid romance in a way that’s never been done before.
Anyway, at this point, I feel like it’s kind of getting away from me. Since this is my first novel, I’ve heard of this happening but never really witnessed the process myself before. All I can do now is write the thing as best as I damn well can, and get it to some beta readers for some serious feedback.
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